RoboCop: TV show + Prime Directives... Anyone seen it?

Discussion in 'Science Fiction & Fantasy' started by ReadyAndWilling, Nov 9, 2013.

  1. ReadyAndWilling

    ReadyAndWilling Fleet Captain

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    Hi all, so I want to start out by saying that I'm a big time Robocop trilogy fan. I really enjoyed all three of them, even the third one with its 'super-cheeseyness'.

    I remember watching the pilot of the TV show about a year ago, but I just never got around to watching the rest of it. Also, I've known about 'Prime Directives' for some time, but again, I just never got around to watching them.

    I just checked on Wiki and there are 22 episodes of 'Robocop: The Series' and 4 episodes of 'Robocop Prime Directives'. What's the ideal viewing order? Do I need to watch Robocop 1-3 again so it's fresh in my mind or no?

    What do I need to keep in mind when I'm watching the 'The Series' and 'Prime Directives'?

    Thank you!
     
  2. Admiral James Kirk

    Admiral James Kirk Writer Admiral

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    To the best of my recollection Prime Directives doesn't share a continuity with the television series. My suggestion is that you skip it altogether. Prime Directives is an awful, awful waste of time. Just watch the first movie and forget you ever heard of Prime Directives.
     
  3. Tiny Timby

    Tiny Timby LIKE LIGHTNIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING Administrator

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    Imagine you're walking down the street, and suddenly you come across a $100 bill on the sidewalk.

    As you bend over to pick it up, someone runs up behind you and kicks you in the junk, hard.

    To top things off, as you stumble around, half-blind and trying not to vomit or pass out from the pain, that son of a bitch steals the $100 bill.

    That's the experience of watching Prime Directives.
     
  4. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    The ideal viewing order is to watch RoboCop: The Series in the order presented on the DVDs, and then stop. R:TS is a lot of fun, albeit lighter in tone and more kid-friendly than the movies, and has a terrific cast. (Here are my blog posts discussing/reviewing it.) Prime Directives is dismal and stupid, and its RoboCop was completely miscast. It's not at all in continuity with R:TS, although it repurposes a bit of stock footage from the series as flashbacks, creating the misconception that they're connected.

    What to keep in mind when watching R:TS is that it's a direct sequel to the original film but ignores and contradicts the theatrical sequels. This is because its pilot was rewritten from the rejected movie sequel script by the original film's writers. So it's basically an alternate reality branching off from the first movie, and in my view it's truer to the conception of RoboCop than the movie sequels were. The supporting characters start off being just renamed versions of the movie's characters, but they end up developing their own distinct personalities, and the series' continuity and the first movie's mesh pretty well (as I discuss in more detail in my blog posts).

    That said, you don't need to rewatch the original movie before R:TS. You can if you want to, but the pilot does a good job recapping the backstory.

    What to keep in mind when watching Prime Directives is, "What am I doing? They warned me not to watch this! I should really turn this off and go read a good book."
     
  5. ReadyAndWilling

    ReadyAndWilling Fleet Captain

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    But didn't Prime Directives have a high budget?
     
  6. davejames

    davejames Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Agreed. Prime Directives is just laughably bad. Even the one decent idea in there-- pitting two Robocops against each other-- was horribly executed.

    Avoid at all costs.
     
  7. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Umm, your point? Lots of high-budget productions are terrible.
     
  8. Admiral James Kirk

    Admiral James Kirk Writer Admiral

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    Avatar had a massive budget and that didn't stop it from being a cliche-ridden piece of crap. At the very least Avatar had good visuals and good action. Sadly I can't heap the same level of praise upon Prime Directives. It's bad. Not so bad it's good. It's bad bad!
     
  9. ReadyAndWilling

    ReadyAndWilling Fleet Captain

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    Uhhh how can it be this bad?
     
  10. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    According to Sturgeon's Law, 90% of everything is garbage. Consider that there are three RoboCop feature films (to date) and only one of them is good.

    Look at it this way: Say you have a bunch of pieces to put together into a puzzle, or to assemble into a working engine, or whatever. There's only one right way to put them together, and an unlimited number of wrong ways. So it's easier to get something wrong than to get it right. Making a good movie or TV show requires putting a lot of pieces together in the right way, but there are a lot more wrong ways to combine them than right ways. So on the whole, the odds are against any given show or movie being good.

    More specifically, RoboCop isn't an easy character to get right, and it's easy to miss the point of him. RoboCop 2 missed the point by assuming the violence was the point rather than just a means to a satirical end. Prime Directives missed the point by treating Robo as just a generic wisecracking tough cop, and by ignoring the satirical/comedy elements altogether and being excessively dark and grim.
     
  11. Ethros

    Ethros Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Here's what I would recommend to people re: watching the Robocop franchise...


    Robocop


    ...that is all.
     
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Incidentally, there are two RoboCop animated series. Marvel did RoboCop: The Animated Series in 1988, which was a halfway decent continuation of the movie universe, surprisingly dark and violent for a Saturday morning kids' show, albeit still sufficiently censored that they used laser guns and nobody died (in fact, they even retconned the movie so that Boddicker and his gang were still alive). It was set in a version of the world where robots were increasingly common and there was a lot of prejudice and hostility toward them. I don't remember it well, but I think it was more or less okay, and unlike the live-action series it had permission to use the movie's supporting characters, even heavily featuring minor players like SWAT Lt. Hedgecock and Dr. McNamara.

    The second animated series was RoboCop: Alpha Commando from a decade later, and it was highly dumbed down and toyeticized, with Robo reawakened in a cyberpunk future and becoming the hip, wisecracking leader of a crimefighting team (whose members were named Neumeier and Miner after the creators of the franchise), as well as being equipped with a jet pack and other toy-worthy gadgets. Paradoxically, it featured an elderly version of Sgt. Reed (Robert DoQui's character) from the movies, but he was voiced by Blu Mankuma, who had played Sgt. Parks in RoboCop: The Series. It was a silly show and had very little to do with RoboCop.

    Unfortunately, of the two animated series, only Alpha Commando is available on DVD or online in the US, though there was a UK DVD release of R:TAS.
     
  13. Aldo

    Aldo Admiral Admiral

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    I can't say I agree with Timby a lot, but this time he's right on the money. It's horrendous, the guy playing Robocop has no idea how to act in the suit. Not to mention the whole thing looks incredibly cheap and is filled with bargain basement actors.

    I only ever saw the first part (there's four, I believe) but it was so bad I never even bothered seeking out the other three. Robocop 3, which everyone likes to say is the worst of the series, looks like high art next to Prime Directives.

    I would suggest finding clips on youtube and judging for yourself, but even then you're wasting your time. Just skip it, is my recommendation.
     
  14. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I agree with most criticisms of Prime Directives, but I don't know about this one. It seemed to draw on the same pool of Canadian TV actors that most Toronto or Vancouver productions do, with several actors in common with TekWar (Maurice Dean Wint, Maria Del Mar, Eugene Clark) and future 24 cast member Leslie Hope, among others (including Anthony Lemke, who's done a ton of Canadian TV, including a recent recurring stint on Lost Girl).


    I think I made it partway through the second installment before giving up.


    I think RoboCop 2 is far worse than 3. The third film has its cheesy aspects, but it doesn't have the gratuitous, over-the-top ultraviolence of the second, and it doesn't marginalize RoboCop as a character quite as much.
     
  15. davejames

    davejames Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I think the main problem is the first Robocop already told the best and most compelling story with this character-- his creation and Murphy's gradual reawakening from within-- and already had the best villains (in Boddicker and Jones) and coolest action sequences (Robo vs ED-209, Robo vs the people who killed him, Robo vs his own police department, Robo vs an entire freakin warehouse of armed bad guys...)

    The sequels could just never find a way to top all that. RoboCain might have been a cool design, but his origin was awful and it just wasn't nearly as fun watching Robo go up against him as it was with ED-209. And about the best the third movie could do was pit Robo against an.... (ugh) robot ninja.
     
  16. Tiny Timby

    Tiny Timby LIKE LIGHTNIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING Administrator

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    The same way any movie or series or miniseries can be bad: A bunch of incompetent nincompoops were hired to write, direct and produce the thing.

    Fireworks Entertainment, a Canadian studio that was known for insanely low-budget works, had acquired the television rights to RoboCop from Skyvision through some scamboogery or another. Those rights were due to expire sometime in 2001, so Fireworks commissioned the Prime Directives miniseries, helmed by Julian Grant (known for making low-budget schlock) and written by two goons with no feature credits to their name (but they were really big RoboCop fans! And they interacted with the fans on the Internet! So of course it would be great!), with a crazy low budget and a bunch of no-name, cheap actors. The biggest name in the cast was Page Fletcher, as RoboCop -- and his biggest claim to fame was starring in The Hitchhiker on HBO in the '80s.

    (Fun side note: Because the Prime Directives production was so low-budget, they couldn't afford to have multiple fiberglass Robosuits struck from Rob Bottin's original mold. So Bottin sent one of his only "original" Robosuits to be used by Fletcher. Upon receiving it, the crew realized that Page Fletcher was about five inches shorter than Peter Weller, and so the suit was ridiculously oversized for him. Their solution? They took a hacksaw to a few portions, notably the lower legs, to try and get it to fit Fletcher better. Bottin was, shall we say, not pleased when the suit was returned to him.)

    Prime Directives is bad. It's really bad. Even the score is beyond terrible (the hero theme sounds like something you'd hear at a bullfighting event). There is no reason for it to exist, and watching it may in fact give you dick cancer.
     
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I think The Series managed to do excellent work with the RoboCop character, by exploring his existence as a hybrid being who was neither man nor machine, who remembered the life of Alex Murphy but could never be Alex Murphy, never return to his family or even let them know that a part of him survived. It also developed him by giving him distinct relationships with various other characters. Although it took a while to get the hang of it. The early episodes tended to marginalize Robo by having him frequently damaged and taken out of action, with the focus more on his supporting cast, but over time they really enriched their exploration of his character. I don't agree that an origin story is the most interesting story to tell about a character; quite often it's one of the least interesting, because there's so much emphasis on establishing how a character became who they are that there's not much room to explore that identity.

    Indeed, what disappoints me about the original film is that once RoboCop remembers his past, he's portrayed basically as Alex Murphy in a metal suit. I'm much more intrigued by the series' version, where he's not just Murphy but a new, unique entity formed from the blending of Murphy's incomplete memories and psyche with RoboCop's logical programming. It makes him a more distinctive and complex character, a being caught between worlds and identities, not fully a man or a machine and struggling to reconcile the demands of both. (And kudos to Richard Eden for the amazing way he conveyed so much of that internal struggle so subtly, with the barest hint of expression and intonation -- a skill that nobody else since Leonard Nimoy has ever mastered so well.)

    And sure, R:TS didn't have action sequences on the level of the movies, but action is boring without worthwhile characters and emotional stakes, whereas stories that have those things can be entirely satisfying without needing big action.

    (That said, I do have a soft spot for RoboCop 2's climactic action, since it's probably the last great stop-motion animation set piece in cinema history. Sure, the underlying plot is silly and the characters superficial, but you can say the same about a lot of Ray Harryhausen movies.)
     
  18. Blamo

    Blamo Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    The TV series was actually surprisingly good. I mean yes the violence and language was really toned down, they added the obligatory annoying brat character and the magic hologram was a tad ridiculous for the setting, but other than that it was rather okay. Heck, I don't even see the toning down of violence and language as an issue.

    While it was sanitized, it still felt true to the original movie and it's concepts. Plus it did some great work with the characters from what I remember.

    Prime Directives though was really awful for all the reasons mentioned.
     
  19. davejames

    davejames Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I'm certainly not arguing the origin is always the most interesting part (the Spidey origin being one of the clearest examples), but there are some cases where I happen to think it is.

    The Robocop TV series might have done a few interesting things with the character (my memory of it frankly isn't that good anymore), but I hardly remember anything happening that was as powerful or compelling as what happened in the original movie.
     
  20. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    As they should have been. Despite the violence of the original film, RoboCop was always a very popular character with children. This series was in syndication on commercial TV, so there was no way to prevent children from watching it. Given that, it would've been irresponsible not to make it suitable for young viewers.


    Who was toned down a lot after the first few episodes. She appeared less often and went from being a knowitall who saved the day to a more innocent and vulnerable character who needed guidance and protection. Really, a lot about the show got better after the first bunch of episodes, as is the case with many shows.

    Are you referring to the character of Diana or specifically to the way she manifested herself holographically? The latter was a bit fanciful, but the former worked very well within the setting, because she was basically a kindred spirit to RoboCop, a person who'd been killed so their brain could be merged with a cybernetic device and whose consciousness survived and gained control over the programming.


    Well, weekly TV episodes are rarely as big or epic as feature films, since they can't shake up the status quo too much -- especially back then when shows were less serialized. But there were some pretty moving episodes in the back half of the season. And a single intense experience with a character or world isn't necessarily as satisfying in the long run as the chance to get to know that character and their world in greater depth over an extended period.